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Archive for the ‘Audit Reports’ Category

There are those like a certain former governor who see no good in any state employee. Perhaps that is why efforts were exerted to privatize every state government agency in sight and even to the extent of destroying one of the better teaching hospital systems in the country.

And gutting higher education’s budget only brought higher tuition costs, putting a college education out of reach of thousands of Louisiana students.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons Louisiana is the SEVENTH-FASTEST shrinking state in the nation, according to 24/7 Wall Street, a research organization that routinely publishes lists of the best and worst in a wide array of subjects.

Of course, another reason steeped in Louisiana tradition is the sordid history of CORRUPTION that has permeated the political culture of this state for longer than anyone reading this has lived.

And when you have a state legislature that ignores the well-being of the state’s citizens in favor of the corporate interests of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the oil and gas industry get first consideration, it’s no wonder that folks are a tad jaded.

Yet, thousands of state employees report to work each day to do jobs that go largely unnoticed—until something goes awry. Then, of course, all hell breaks loose. A civil servant gets fined for receiving an unsolicited Christmas ham from a vendor (that really happened), but another employee, an administrator, gets caught claiming time on the job while actually on vacation and nothing gets done.

Let a few rank and file state troopers drive across country for a conference at the direction of the State Police Superintendent and they are punished while the superintendent is allowed to retire—with full benefits.

Let another agency head trade sex with the manager of a restaurant in exchange for a permit to operate and nothing happens. But that same agency head dished out arbitrary punishment and fired employees for no cause and it took civil lawsuits to bring some measure of justice. And not even all of the lawsuits produced satisfactory results for the fired employees.

I write all that to say that while little seems to get done much of the time, there is one agency that has uncovered nearly $6.3 million in criminal violations, initiated investigations that have resulted in 51 criminal prosecutions that have resulted in produced 57 terminations or resignations.

A hard-charging, politically ambitious, headline-seeking prosecutor?

Nope. Just the work-a-day numbers-crunchers working for Louisiana Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera.

From Jan. 1, 2015, through Nov. 13, 2017, Purpera’s office has submitted 108  investigative audits of local and state government agencies, boards and commissions and quasi-public entities. From those 108 investigative audits came 72 actual reports with 200 findings reported and 555 recommendations made.

summary of projects

An investigative audit, by definition, is far more serious than routine audits that agencies undergo on a regular basis. Before embarking on an investigative audit, there must be a reason for the auditor’s office to suspect some kind of wrongdoing.

The dollar amount covered in those 118 investigative audits was $148.96 million dollars with almost $6.3 million in alleged criminal violations turned up.

Some of the more high-profile investigative audits performed during the 22-month period included:

  • Misappropriation of funds by an employee of the Evangeline Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Misapplication of funds at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches;
  • Improper payments and tickets to athletic events at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette;
  • Improper expenditure of $268,000 by the Institute for Academic Excellence in New Orleans;
  • Improper expenditure of $360,000 by the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System;
  • Nearly $800,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the 9th Judicial District Attorney in Rapides Parish;
  • Employees of the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court Office improperly paid for 51 days that they did not work;
  • Numerous violations by management at Angola State Penitentiary which resulted in the resignation of Warden Burl Cain and others;
  • Nearly $200,000 in seized cash assets was not deposited in the account of the District Attorney’s Special Asset Forfeiture Fund as required by the Acadia Parish Sheriff’s Office;
  • Mismanagement and missing state equipment from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries;
  • Improper use of state vehicle, hotel rooms, personnel, meals and training facilities by management personnel of Louisiana State Police;
  • Improper use of $164,000 of state funds by two employees and a student worker, unauthorized use of student identification cards, unauthorized free meals totaling more than $12,600 and improper advances of financial aid to students at Grambling State University.
  • Failure of the Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority in New Orleans to collect more than $600,000 in boat slip rental fees.

So, while it’s easy to criticize civil servants, it’s important to understand that while the public perception may be one of “deadheads,” they are people just like you—people with mortgages, student debt, family illnesses, and myriad other concerns (again, just like you). They are your neighbors, your friends and your relatives and they show up for work every day—just like you. And they struggle to make ends meet—just like you.

Given that, it’s a little difficult for me to understand how someone like autocrat Trump can pretend to say he relates with 800,000 federal workers who are facing the second pay period without a paycheck.

It’s puzzling also that daughter-in-law/adviser Lara Trump calls the government shutdown during which federal employees have to resort to food banks to eat, hold garage sales to pay the rent, or worse, be ordered to work without pay thus preventing them from taking part-time jobs that do pay, “a little bit of a pain.” This privileged, self-centered little rich girl has never known “a little bit of a pain.” so, how the hell can she relate?

And how can Trump economic adviser Kevin Hassett even dare to suggest that idled workers are better off because they’re benefiting from “a free vacation”? That’s unsurpassed arrogance.

But Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross took the prize by suggesting that federal workers simply run out to the corner bank or credit union and float a loan.

Perhaps Ross was trying to encourage them to borrow from the Bank of Cyprus that he once headed as it washed the money of Russian oligarchs.

All of this just so Trump can try to score some kind of vague point in order to say he’s a winner.

But my question to all those I’ve talked to who suddenly think a wall is of the utmost importance to the continued existence of a free and pure America is simply this:

Did you ever—even ONCE—consider the crushing need for a wall before Trump tossed the idea out as a throw-away line during a campaign stop in 2016? Did you know he was instructed to do that by his handlers only as a means of keeping him on topic?

Neither Trump, you, your mama, my mama, nor anyone else had ever given a wall a fleeting thought until then. Suddenly, it became the holy grail for all his followers who were unable to come up with an original thought of their own. And so, they fell in lockstep and followed, like so many sheep.

But there was another part to his promise that he has quietly dropped.

Mexico ain’t paying for it.

So, that’s my tribute to public employees, both state and federal and I hope to hell every one of them remembers our two U.S. Senators and five of our six U.S. Representatives who blindly support Trump’s every asinine utterance, tweet, and stumbling, bumbling, fumbling action.

 

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Sometimes with local politics, you need a program, an organizational chart, a genealogical diagram, and perhaps even DNA data to keep up with who’s allied with whom and who’s got a vendetta against whom.

So much has been written about Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal that when another local courthouse politician finds himself in trouble, it’s natural to assume that Ackal’s name would come up somewhere in the mix.

After all, Ackal has been indicted and acquitted and there’s talk that the name on his office door may be changed from “Sheriff” to “Defendant.” The sheriff’s department has paid out judgments or settlements that equate to $23,000 per month for every month of his 10-year tenure ($2.8 million total), and that doesn’t even include the $600,000 settlement with the family of Victor White III, the 22-year-old who authorities said got hold of a gun and fatally shot himself in the chest—while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

Nor does it include the lawsuit just filed against Ackal and three of his deputies. The plaintiff, Rickey Roche, claims the deputies beat him and planted drugs on him during a retaliatory traffic stop following an altercation between Roche and one of the deputies. (Nary a word has been written by the local paper about this lawsuit, by the way.)

More on that later, but first the confusion surrounding the June 8 indictment of Iberia Clerk of Court Michael Thibodeaux by M. Bofill Duhé, the local district attorney who loves to indict people on BOGUS CHARGES.

The indictment on 14 criminal counts of perjury, racketeering, malfeasance, theft of advance court costs, filing false/altered public records was handed down by M. Bofill on the basis of an admittedly nasty INVESTIGATIVE AUDIT.

But the fact that the indictment came a full 20 months after the release of the October 2016 audit should raise eyebrows. And considering a blindfolded man could turn around three times and spit and most probably hit a legislative audit report at least as serious as this one which produced not even a slap on the wrist, and you really start wondering about the local political affiliations.

Among other things, the state audit said that from May 2013 to May 2016, the clerk’s office “improperly retained $314,495 in unused advance court costs that state law required to be refunded to the persons who originally deposited those monies. Of this amount, the Clerk of Court transferred $218,021 from the advance deposit bank account (advance deposit fund) to the Clerk of Court’s salary fund bank account (salary fund) to pay Clerk of Court salaries and other expenses. The remaining $96,924 represents monies currently in the Clerk of Court’s advance deposit fund that should be returned to the persons who made the original deposits.”

The misuse, misapplication, mismanagement and/or the misappropriation of more than $300,000 is a serious offense, one which should never be taken lightly and the DA’s office took the appropriate action in pursuing its own legal investigation once the audit came to light.

But the question must be asked: where was the DA’s office when prisoners were being abused and killed while in custody of Sheriff Louis Ackal? Yes, Ackal was indicted, but it was a federal indictment. Duhé was nowhere to be found.

But here’s Thibodeaux’s cardinal sin: Ryan Huval was an employee of the clerk’s office and Thibodeaux terminated him. The official reasons are not known and Thibodeaux is prohibited from discussing it because of privacy issues.

But the reasons, whether justified or not, don’t matter. Ryan Huval is the son of Ricky Huval.

Ricky Huval is the parish assessor and he was not happy with his son’s firing. And Ricky Huval and District Attorney M. Bofill Duhé are tight.

As a sidebar, unconfirmed rumor has it that certain property belonging to one Michael Thibodeaux might also have been reassessed by Huval’s office.

So, for a change, a local political story in Iberia Parish does not involve Sheriff Ackal.

But then, he has all he can handle with that latest lawsuit by Roche who says that after his confrontation with Lt. Col. Gerald Savoy the sheriff’s office targeted Roche with surveillance and pulled his vehicle over without probable cause. He says he was kicked, punched, choked and beaten with a baton and flashlight by then-deputies Byron Lasalle, Jason Comeaux, and Wade Bergeron and that they planted drugs on him.

All four deputies eventually were indicted for prisoner abuse, entered guilty pleas and testified against Ackal, who was acquitted.

Bergeron was sentenced to 48 months in prison while Comeaux received sentences of 40 and 30 months, Lasalle got 54 months on each of three counts to run concurrently, and Savoy was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.

All this is not to claim either that Thibodeaux is guilty or that he’s as pure as the driven snow, but it is rather curious that Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal was never indicted by Duhé’s office for some of the transgressions he was accused of—little things like turning vicious dogs loose on defenseless prisoners or forcing prisoners to simulate oral sex with deputies’ nightsticks.

Here are a few other lowlights of the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office, as itemized in a letter to then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, none of which attracted the diligence of Duhé’s office:

  • In 2005, a former inmate alleged that deputies beat him so badly when he was booked into jail that he had to spend two weeks in a hospital.
  • In 2008, a man alleged that a deputy beat him so badly during an arrest that he coughed up blood and then a muzzle was put over his mouth. The man later settled a suit with the Sheriff’s Office for $50,000.
  • In 2009, Michael Jones, a 43-year-old man who suffered from bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, died in the jail after an altercation with then-Warden Frank Ellis and then-lieutenant Wesley Hayes. This year, a judge ruled that two Sheriff’s Office employees were responsible for Jones’ death. The judgment in the case totaled $61,000.
  • In 2009, former inmate Curtis Ozenne alleged that officers began a contraband sweep by forcing him to remain in the “Muslim praying position” for nearly three hours. Mr. Ozenne alleged he was kicked in the mouth multiple times, threatened with police dogs and then his head was shaved. In his complaint, Mr. Ozenne also alleged that Sheriff Ackal threatened him with a dog and watched as an officer struck him with a baton for smiling. Mr. Ozenne’s suit against the Sheriff’s Office was later settled for $15,000.
  • In 2009, Robert Sonnier, a 62-year-old mentally ill man, died as the result of a fatal blow delivered by an IPSO Deputy in the course of a physical altercation. After Mr. Sonnier was unable to receive a psychological evaluation authorized by his wife, he was left in a wheelchair to stew in his own waste for several hours. He eventually became agitated which led to altercations with Deputies that resulted in Sonnier being pepper sprayed twice and eventually leading to the fatal blow.
  • In 2012, Marcus Robicheaux, an inmate at Iberia Parish Jail, was pulled from a wall and thrown to the ground as IPSO correctional officers ran a contraband sweep. A deputy’s dog then attacked Mr. Robicheaux, biting his legs, arms and torso, as the deputy stomped and kicked the prone inmate. The whole three-minute incident was captured on video from the jail’s surveillance cameras.
  • In 2014, Victor White III died as the result of a fatal gunshot wound while handcuffed in the backseat of an IPSO car. The sheriff’s deputies who arrested Mr. Victor (sic) alleged that he wouldn’t leave the car and became “uncooperative.” They say he pulled out a handgun, while his hands were cuffed behind his back, and shot himself in the back. However, the full coroner’s report indicated that Mr. White had died from a single shot to his right chest, contradicting the initial police statement that he had shot himself in the back.

But Duhé was right there when Ackal needed him to help shut up a New Iberia black man who initiated a recall petition after the Victor White shooting.

On July 8, 2016, Broussard was rear-ended by a hit-and-run driver In Lafayette Parish who minutes later collided head-on with an 18-wheeler and was killed in adjacent Iberia Parish.

Yet it was Broussard who was indicted on a charge of manslaughter by an Iberia Parish grand jury on March 19, 2017, just nine days before the seven deputies were sentenced.

So just how did Broussard find himself in Ackal’s crosshairs? On July 1, a week before the auto accident, Broussard committed the unpardonable sin when he became the impetus behind a recall of Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal.

Broussard, an African-American, was one of the organizers of The Justice for Victor White III Foundation which filed a petition on July 1 to force a recall election. White was the 22-year-old who died of a gunshot wound while in the back seat of a sheriff deputy’s patrol car in March 2014. The official report said the gunshot was self-inflicted. The coroner’s report said he was shot in the front with the bullet entering his right chest and exiting under his left armpit. White’s hands were cuffed behind his back at the time.

Ackal, of course, skated on that issue and was later indicted, tried and acquitted on federal charges involving beating prisoners and turning dogs loose on prisoners, as well. But when you’ve got retired federal judge and family member Richard Haik helping with the defense, you tend to land on your feet.

But hey, Ackal also didn’t fire Ryan Huval.

 

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What in the world’s going on in the sleepy town of Mansfield up in DeSoto Parish?

Usually, the political shenanigans are kept pretty much in-house, meaning what happens here generally stays here. We’re family here, after all, and the family doesn’t air its dirty laundry.

The normal procedure is for everyone to just shake their heads and to go on about their business, secure in the knowledge that this is Louisiana and that’s just the way it is. Always has been, always will be.

But occasionally, these dirty little secrets burst open like a festering sore and they become a little more difficult to ignore.

Thanks to the diligence of the Legislative Auditor’s office in Baton Rouge, that’s what has happened in the DeSoto Parish Sheriff’s Office over the past four years.

What began as an investigative audit in April 2014 that revealed a former deputy’s private business ran more than 41,500 BACKGROUND CHECKS through the sheriff’s office during an 11-month period between April 1, 2012, and February 28, 2013, eventually led to the RESIGNATION of long-time sheriff Rodney Arbuckle in March of this year. Arbuckle attributed his resignation to health problems encountered by one of his grandchildren.

And the saga continues.

State auditors are back for yet another investigative audit. Arbuckle’s successor, Jayson Richardson is resisting a subpoena by the auditor’s office and he is taking his fight into the courtroom.

State Auditor Daryl Purpera on June 13 had the subpoena served on Richardson. It sought to compel Richardson to produce “copies of the unredacted personnel files” of the sheriff and 12 of his deputies.

“The designated personnel files contain privileged and Constitutionally-protected private information,” says a PETITION FOR DECLARATORY AND INJUNCTIVE RELIEF filed by attorney James Sterritt of the prominent Shreveport law firm of Cook, Yancey, King & Galloway. “Under the circumstances, forcing the sheriff to comply with the subpoena would cause the sheriff, who is charged with enforcing the law, to instead break the law by disregarding legally-protected privacy rights.”

Sterritt also challenged the legality of the subpoena which he says “was not issued under authority of any court.” Instead, he said, it is a “Legislative Subpoena Duces Tecum” and which was not reviewed or evaluated by a judge. “Instead, it was signed by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (Purpera) and the Chairwoman of (the) Louisiana Legislative Audit Advisory Council (State Rep. Julie Stokes)

Not so, says Purpera. “We will be glad to argue this in court,” he said. “We have the power to subpoena records (and) we’ve been issuing subpoenas for the last 34 years that I know of.”

Purpera said he would seek to move the matter to the 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge.

Sterritt, in typical legal fashion, included case citations in his motion in the hopes that something might stick.

“As an accommodation, the sheriff offered to remove or redact the protected information,” Sterritt said. “But the auditor, through its representatives and employees, refused. The only accommodation that the auditor would agree to was that medical records could be removed while the auditor supervised the removal of those records.”

But Richardson, aka James Samuel Baldwin (I’ll explain that momentarily), countered through Sterritt that “no law enforcement officer, no district attorney, no attorney general, no inspector general, and no other governmental official has the authority to obtain subpoenas without just, reasonable, or probable cause. There is no law that authorizes the auditor to do what others cannot.

“The affidavit used to obtain the subpoena is defective,” Richardson/Baldwin argues. “It contains conclusory, unsupportable legal arguments and opinions—not facts. It contains mischaracterization and/or misrepresentation of the auditor’s authority. It omits relative matters. It would not be sufficient to establish the foundation necessary for a subpoena issued by a judicial officer.”

Besides Richardson, personnel records sought include those for the following employees:

  • Monica Cason;
  • Black Woodward;
  • Karen Miller;
  • Robert Davidson;
  • Chato Atkins;
  • Kenneth Gingles;
  • Gregory Perry;
  • Stephanie White;
  • Patrick Jones;
  • Donnie Barber;
  • Carolyn Davis, and
  • Luther Butler.

And just for good measure, Sterritt said the subpoena is “overly broad and creates an unreasonable burden and unnecessary expense. The proposed production will be unduly time-consuming and expensive. It will not result in a legally-justifiable use of public resources.”

It took Sterritt six pages to say all that. If he gets paid by the word, he did quite well for himself and his firm.

State Judge Charles B. Adams of the 42nd Judicial District signed a protective order and a rule to show cause and scheduled a hearing for today (Thursday, June 21) at 9:30 a.m.

Jennifer Shaye, an attorney for the auditor’s office, was dispatched to Mansfield to argue on behalf of the state. LouisianaVoice will update this story as soon as it is learned whether or not Judge Adams rules or takes the matter under advisement.

Meanwhile, about the apparent confusion over the sheriff’s real name:

When Richardson divorced his first wife several years ago, it was revealed by his now ex-wife that when they were married, his legal name was James Samuel Baldwin but on May 9, 2005, he had his name legally changed to Jayson Ray Richardson but neglected to take steps to change his wife’s name.

No reason was given for the name change.

Nor has there been any explanation for an apparent discrepancy in Baldwin/Richardson’s announced promotion to Chief Deputy only months before Arbuckle’s resignation as opposed to his official appointment a year earlier.

By letter of Dec. 20, 2016, Arbuckle informed the Secretary of State’s office, “This letter is to inform you that I am appointing Jayson Richardson as Chief Criminal Deputy of my office.” Accompanying that letter was Richardson’s OATH OF OFFICE, signed and notarized that same date.

But Arbuckle did not get around to announcing the promotion until his former chief deputy Horace Womack retired in December 2017, a full year later.

Somehow, it always seems appropriate to quote the late C.B. Forgotston:

“You can’t make this stuff up.”

 

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Louisiana’s campaign finance reports can be very revealing—and awfully embarrassing—when certain contributors are linked to business relationships with the candidate.

And just as eye-opening can be an accounting of how campaign funds are spent.

Take Jerry Larpenter, the sheriff of Terrebonne Parish these past 30 years, for example.

From 2012 through 2017, a period of six years, Larpenter dished out more than $130,000 in campaign funds to pay for golf tournaments, golf tee shirts, embroidered shirts for golf tournaments, camo hats and koozies for golf tournaments, golf trophies, golf bags, insurance for golf tournaments, cups for golf tournaments, signs advertising golf tournaments, guns for golf tournament prizes, food for golf tournaments, cracklings for golf tournaments, golf tournament brochures and envelopes, food for golf tournaments, and $15,482 paid to Web Corp. of St. Charles, Missouri, for bulletproof vests for deputies (the only problem with that is Web Corp. is a web design company, not a bulletproof vest company).

Some of Larpenter’s campaign contributions were also rather interesting. There was $2,500 from City Tele Coin of Bossier City back in 2014. City Tele Coin, according to its WEB PAGE, provides telephone services for correctional facilities. There has been considerable discussion on the Louisiana Public Service Commission about the high rates charged inmates’ families for collect phone calls by these companies.

Another $4,500 came from Anthony Alford Insurance. Tony Alford’s company held a contract with the sheriff’s office and with the Terrebonne Parish Council for insurance coverage. Alford and Dove are business partners in a company called PALOMA ENTERPRISES. With Dove as a business partner while simultaneously serving as parish president, such a business arrangement between Alford and the parish council would appear to be an ethics violation.

Moreover, Larpenter’s wife Priscilla is listed as an officer for both ALL PROPERTY & CASUALTY SERVICES and A&L PROPERTY & CASUALTY SERVICES. Alford is also listed as an officer for both companies.

Louisiana Workforce of St. Francisville (now defunct) and Security Workforce, LLC, of New Roads, both run by Paul Perkins, combined to contribute more than $6400 to Larpenter’s campaigns. The two firms provided prison labor for local jails to hire out to businesses, a practice many equate to legalized slavery.

Perkins is a former BUSINESS PARTNER and subordinate of former Angola warden Burl Cain and current Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc. Before Louisiana Workforce went under, David Daniel worked as a warden for the company while it contracted with the West Feliciana Parish Sheriff’s Office for prison labor. The sheriff of West Feliciana is Austin Daniel, David Daniel’s father.

Louisiana Workforce was at the center of a controversy in 2010 when a state investigation revealed that documents were being FORGED to alter dates on work release agreements. In all, 68 documents were altered or signatures forged so that they would pass state inspections. A 2016 STATE AUDIT called for better oversight of the program.

Correctional Food Services, Inc. of Dallas, about which precious little is known (the company does not have a Web page), but which is presumed to provide food for prisoners, contributed $3,760 to Larpenter’s campaign.

But the most curious contribution was the $3000 from the Terrebonne Men’s Carnival Club of Houma. Larpenter’s campaign finance report indicated that the $3000 came from a “winning ticket” purchased from the Krewe of Hercules.

But if there’s one thing that can be said of Larpenter, it’s that he is not short on imagination when it comes to spending other people’s money.

Take the old FLOWER FUND, run for years by Larpenter—and his predecessor. It was run in a manner eerily reminiscent of Huey Long’s legendary “deduct box,” the scam that required state employees to contribute a percentage of their state salaries to Huey’s campaign fund whether they liked it or not.

The flower fund was a virtual clone of the deduct box and while Larpenter didn’t initiate the practice—it was already in place when he became sheriff—he carried on the tradition in the grand tradition of his old boss, the late Sheriff Charleton Rozands.

Each month, the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office’s 299 employees “contributed” $1 of their pay checks to the flower fund which was occasionally used to actually purchase flowers but which more often went for gifts for the sheriff at Christmas, on his birthdays and on boss’s days. Larpenter was the only member of the sheriff’s department who did not contribute to the fund.

Larpenter became sheriff in April 1987 and the practice continued at least until 2001 and it wasn’t until 1999 that employees learned for certain through an attorney general’s opinion that the “contributions” were not mandatory.

In the interim, flower fund expenditures included:

  • $1,462.41 for s stereo system for Larpenter;
  • $1,000 for Larpenter’s account at a furniture store;
  • $978.53 for a trolling motor, two batteries, and accessories for Larpenter’s birthday;
  • $183 for building materials from Lowe’s (records indicate it was spent for Larpenter’s Christmas present);
  • $631for fishing gear as a gift for Larpenter;
  • $44 for a gift for Larpenter’s first wife;
  • $186 for hunting gear;
  • $220 for fishing equipment for Larpenter for a Boss’s Day gift;
  • $60 for perfume;
  • $258 for a man’s watch;
  • $400 for the purchase of a trolling motor for Larpenter as a combination Boss’s Day and birthday gift;
  • $585 for nine watches from the Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, which Larpenter said were gifts for 20-year employees of his office;
  • $110 for flowers for a memorial for a deputy who died in the line of duty.

Following the attorney general’s opinion and a federal investigation into the practice, Larpenter announced that the fund would no longer be used as a slush fund for gifts for him but would instead be used to benefit his employees and to fund two scholarships.

He added that while flower fund money would no longer be used to purchase gifts for him, it did not mean employees could not “put in” themselves to buy him gifts.

Now that’s subtle.

 

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Anyone remember Allyson Campbell?

If not, that’s understandable. After all, it’s been a couple of years since we had a STORY about her exploits in the 4th Judicial Court in Monroe. She’s the Monroe News-Star society columnist who showed up occasionally at her supposed full-time job as law clerk for 4th JDC Judge Wilson Rambo (gotta love that name; wonder if they have a judge named Rocky?).

On Wednesday, 12 of the 13 judges of the First Circuit Court of Appeal (only Judge Curtis Calloway did not hear arguments) dealt the self-promoting columnist/clerk a major setback when it ruled in an en banc (full court) decision that she does not enjoy “absolute immunity” from her actions in destroying court files and that a lawsuit against her may go forward.

But it was the dissenting opinion of one of the three judges who gave written opinions that makes for the best reading.

The ruling comes nearly two years after Louisiana Inspector General STEPHEN STREET found there was no “sufficient cause” to bring charges against Campbell for what witnesses said were repeated instances of her destroying or concealing trial briefs. For that matter, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office also declined to pursue the matter, leaving only one state official, Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera, with the integrity and courage to call Campbell out for her actions.

She was also the central figure in:

  • The controversy that erupted when the Ouachita Citizen made a legal request for public records from the court—and was promptly sued by the judges for seeking those same public records.
  • The filing of a lawsuit by Judge Sharon Marchman against four fellow judges and Campbell over Campbell’s claiming time worked when she was actually absent—including time when she was in restaurants and/or bars for which she claimed time—and the four judges who Judge Marchman said were complicit in covering for her.
  • A complaint by Monroe attorney Cody Rials that Campbell had boasted in a local bar that she had destroyed Rials’ court document in a case he had pending before Judge Carl Sharp so that Sharp could not review it. One witness interviewed by Judges Sharp and Ben Jones quoted Campbell as saying that she had “taken great pleasure I shredding Rials’ judgment” and that she had given Rials a “legal f—ing.”

Now a DECISION by the First Circuit Court of Appeal, in overturning a lower court’s 2015 decision, has held that a lawsuit by Stanley Palowsky, III, against Campbell for damages incurred when she “spoliated, concealed, removed, destroyed, shredded, withheld, and/or improperly handled” his petition for damages against former business partner Brandon Cork may proceed.

At the same time, the First Circuit ruled that the five judges he added as defendants—Stephens Winters, Sharp, Rambo, Frederic Amman and Jones—for allowing Campbell “free rein to do as she pleased and then conspiring to conceal (her) acts” enjoyed “absolute immunity” from being sued and were dismissed as defendants despite their repeated denials that any documents were missing from the Palowsky file.

Palowsky argued that Campbell undertook her acts with malice and to obtain advantages for his opponents in the lawsuit. Moreover, he argued that Campbell’s supervising judges, Amman and Rambo, “did not just sit back quietly and let Campbell commit such acts, they actively worked and schemed to cover up her actions.”

Palowsky also said that Campbell’s wrongdoings “have been reported time and again by different attorneys in different cases and investigated time and again by defendant judges but have nevertheless been allowed to continue. It is now painfully apparent that not only has Campbell been unsupervised and uncontrollable for years, but defendant judges have actively schemed to allow her conduct to continue unabatedly (sic).”

Campbell, who doubles as a society columnist of sorts (if one really stretches the definition of the term) for the News-Star, is obviously her own biggest fan—unless you count her stated infatuation for Cork’s attorney Thomas Haynes, III, about whom she wrote in one of her columns that he…had the “IT” factor, “a somewhat undefinable quality that makes you and everyone else around stand taller when they enter the room, listen a little more closely, encourage you to take fashion or life risks, make each occasion a little more fun and generally inspire you to aim to achieve that ‘IT’ factor for yourself.”

If they taught that method of courtroom coverage in my Louisiana Tech journalism classes, I must have been absent that day.

Needless to say, the First Circuit upheld the lower court in expunging that paragraph from Palowsky’s petition.

In fact, the lower court struck 46 paragraphs from his lawsuit against Campbell and the five judges, but the First Circuit restored 21 paragraphs to the petition. The 25 it allowed to remain removed involved matters not directly related to Campbell’s alleged destruction of files, the judges said.

In 2014, Campbell published a column entitled, “A Modern Guide to Handle Your Scandal,” in which she wrote, “Half the fun is getting there, and the other half is in the fix.” She then went on to advise her readers to “keep the crowd guessing. Send it out—lies, half-truths, gorilla dust, whatever you’ve got.” She told readers, “You’re no one until someone is out to get you.”

(There’s a line in there somewhere about Trump, but it’s just too easy.)

In July 2015, she wrote in her column, “It’s not cheating if it’s in our favor.”

That paragraph was removed from Palowsky’s petition as was one that noted that on one occasion, 52 writ applications went missing for more than a year before it was discovered that Campbell had used the applications as an end table in her office.

Say what?!!?

One paragraph left in the petition was one in which Palowsky pointed out that the five judges might not be out of the woods yet, if the Louisiana Judiciary Commission does its job. The Louisiana State Constitution provides as follows: “On recommendation of the judiciary commission, the (Louisiana) Supreme Court may censure, suspend with or without salary, remove from office, or retire involuntarily a judge for willful misconduct relating to his official duty, willful and persistent failure to perform his duty, persistent and public conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute, conduct while in office which could constitute a felony, or conviction of a felony.”

It would appear in consideration of the judicial protection of Campbell, a case could be made that the judges are guilty at least of slipshod management at best and criminal malfeasance at worst.

All the judges in the 4th JDC recused themselves when Palowsky sued and his case was heard by Ad Hoc Judge Jerome Barbera, III, who cited in his Dec. 11, 2015, ruling dismissing the five judges as defendants an 1871 ruling that said, “It is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that a judicial officer, in exercising the authority vested in him, shall be free to act upon his own convictions, without apprehension of personal consequences to himself.”

Even though Palowsky was claiming that the judges protected Campbell despite their full knowledge of what she had done, Barbera said, “Allegations of bad faith or malice are not sufficient to overcome judicial immunity.”

Another way of putting it is that the judges are untouchable and that their edicts, like those of the Pope, are infallible, divinely inspired.

Barbera extended the immunity to Campbell but the First Circuit opinion, written by  Judge Page McClendon, overturned Barbera on that point. While two of the Appeal Court judges, Vanessa Whipple and Guy Holdridge upheld immunity for the five district court judges in their written opinions, all three rejected the idea of immunity for Campbell and all three voted to reinstate 21 of the paragraphs in Palowsky’s petition.

But it was that third judge, William Crain, who wrote that none of the defendants deserved immunity from events in the 4th JDC.

“Judicial immunity is of the highest order of importance in maintaining an independent judiciary, free of threats or intimidation. But it is a judge-created doctrine policed by judges.” (emphasis mine)

He also said that when judicial actors “perform non-judicial acts, they are not protected by this otherwise sweeping immunity doctrine.

“The duty to maintain records in cases involves many non-judicial actors and can only be considered a ministerial, not judicial act,” he wrote.

“For the same reasons (that) the law clerk is not immunized for her non-judicial acts related to maintaining court records, the judges are not immunized for allegedly aiding, abetting, then concealing those acts. Failing to supervise a law clerk relative to a non-judicial act is not a judicial act for purposes of immunity.

“The doctrine of judicial immunity does not shield judicial actors from civil liability for criminal acts (and) while later cases suggest judicial immunity extends even to judicial acts performed with malice, those cases do not immunize judicial actors from criminal conduct grounded in malice or corruption.

“Extending the doctrine of judicial immunity to include civil liability for alleged criminal conduct, as in this case, risks undermining the public’s trust in the judiciary, which I cannot countenance.”

So, how, you might ask, has Campbell managed to withstand the barrage of charges of payroll fraud, absenteeism, records destruction, and critical audit reports and still keep her job?

And continue to flaunt her actions in a newspaper column?

That can be explained in one word: Connections.

Campbell’s father is George Campbell, an executive with Regions Bank. George Campbell is married to the daughter of influential attorney Billy Boles who was instrumental in the growth of Century Telephone and who is a major contributor to various political campaigns.

Allyson Campbell is also the sister of Catherine Creed of the Monroe personal injury law firm of Creed and Creed. Christian Creed, Campbell’s brother-in-law, contributed $5,000 to Attorney General Jeff Landry’s 2015 campaign, which could explain, in part, why the AG backed off its investigation of Campbell the following year.

In a town the size of Monroe, those connections are sufficient, apparently.

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